First call for years by Israeli PM and Palestinian leader

RAMALLAH (West Bank) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received a call Friday from Israel's caretaker Prime Minister, Yair Lepid.

First call for years by Israeli PM and Palestinian leader

RAMALLAH (West Bank) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received a call Friday from Israel's caretaker Prime Minister, Yair Lepid. This was the first such conversation between Abbas with an Israeli premier in many years.

This call was made amid rare high-level Israeli/Palestinian contacts in advance of President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel and the Occupied West Bank next week. Talks were focused on coordinating security and calmening tensions ahead of the visit.

Lapid's office stated that he spoke to Abbas about the "continuation of cooperation" and the need for calm and quiet. Hussein al-Sheikh was a senior Abbas aide. He said Lapid had congratulated Abbas for Eid al-Adha (a Muslim holiday that begins Saturday) and "discussed briefly the latest situation," without going into detail.

On Thursday, Abbas received Benny Gantz, Israeli Defense Minister at his headquarters in Ramallah, occupied West Bank. He also spoke by telephone to Isaac Herzog, Israeli President.

More than a decade ago, the peace process was dissolved. Meetings between Israeli and Palestinian leaders at high levels are rare. They tend to be focused on security and economic coordination.

Gantz met Abbas several times last year, and they discussed measures to improve the economic situation in the occupied West Bank.

Both centrists Lapid and Gantz are serving as caretaker ahead of the Nov. 1 elections in which religious or nationalist parties taking a hard line towards the Palestinians will be expected to keep their majority in Israel's Knesset.

Abbas is the head of the Palestinian Authority. This authority administers a portion of the West Bank in accordance with interim peace agreements that were reached in the 1990s. His close security coordination with Israel is a major reason why he is not popular among Palestinians.

Biden will meet next week with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

The Palestinians want a state in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, which Israel captured during the 1967 war.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem in an international move that was not recognized. It considers the whole city its capital. In 2005, it retreated soldiers and settlers to Gaza. Two years later, Hamas took power from Abbas' forces. Israel then imposed a severe blockade that limited Abbas' authority to certain parts of the West Bank.

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